The maker of the Victorian Rover Safety bicycle started producing motor cars at the dawn of the 20th century and became one of the most famous — and enduring — names in the pantheon of British motor manufacturers. Rover moved up market in the 1930s, and maintained its appeal to middle-class motorists after World War II.
But in common with many cars on both sides of the Atlantic, the old-fashioned Rover P3 of 1948 was very much a prewar revival that filled the gap before new models could be introduced.
When it came, the Rover P4 four-door saloon was mould-breaking. The modern styling had more than a hint of new-fangled American streamlining about it. Indeed, the P4 owed more than a little something to the contemporary Studebaker Champion, two examples of which had been studied closely at the Rover works. This audacious piracy was not to everyone’s taste but, time would tell — the ongoing P4 series lasted for 15 years and became a firm favorite with the conservative target market.
The P4 was actually a factory designation not in popular use. Owners would normally have referred to their ‘Rover 75’, but the P4 75 quickly acquired the nickname ‘Cyclops’ for a fog lamp mounted on the radiator grille (ironically, this feature was soon dropped as it interfered with cooling). The engine came from the Rover P3, but the addition of twin carburetors improved performance.
Around 33,000 original P4 75s were sold, though when the evolution 60s, 75 Mk Ils, 80s, 90s, 95/110s, 100s and 105R/105Ss were added the grand total for the P4 series was over 130,000 units. With all those different models, it might be assumed that there was considerable change during the life of the evolving P4 but in fact that iconic design remained virtually unaltered the end.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1949 (until 1954)
2,106 cc Straight Six
Top speed of 85 mph (137 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 21.6 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The Rover P4 75 chassis and engine were used by two ex-Rover engineers to create the two-seater Marauder sports car – but they failed to make a success of it and only 15 roadsters and coupes were actually produced in two years from 1950 before the chastened would-be entrepreneurs rejoined Rover.